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Eyeshine – Tone Of Echoes

Californian ‘Edge Rock’ band Eyeshine have enjoyed a plethora of exposure since their start up in 2004, with two studio releases and a strong presence both online and at convention centres across the US.

This is owed somewhat in part to large fan-base support for front man Johnny Yong Bosch’s acting career, however the four piece group have proved their music ultimately speaks for itself, with a sound that disguises itself as wholeheartedly heavy yet striking an impact that’s all sorts of mellow, augmented by strong song-writing from Bosch that, according to the band’s website, has him: “freeing himself of past pain through his expression in music”. With a line up change in 2009 their third album Tone of Echoes will no doubt be under more scrutiny (though inevitably loved) by their hugely rising army of fans, yet to the unknown listener it might require a bit more of an undertaking to fully appreciate.

The first track Stratosphere is a real delight, the superb production taking immediate notice with nicely levelled bass, drums, guitars and the alterations to Bosch’s vocals giving what might have been an only forgettable opening track far more resonance within your subconscious. Not to say though the piece should be spoken of negatively; its veering composition pervades a positive touch, with a nice and speedy tempo locked in place by well timed singing.

Song two Silverstar comes across as Blink 182-like or a weak Hours era Funeral for a Friend anthem and is better skipped over for the interesting electronic backing and eclectic drumming on ‘No difference’, which houses an ear-pleasing mix of vocals that make up for the slightly uninspired guitar work, it leads up to the first single release ‘Hope is so far away’; a highly ambient song beautifully timed in with light drum-rim tapping, piano and guitar that overall highlights some of the new line-ups best work as a unit as well as the impassioned song writing seen in the band’s sophomore album.

Second single Our Whole Lives Tonight boasts an energy incongruous with few other tracks within the whole album; the intensifying rhythm prior to the initial chorus is a marvellous example of Eyeshine’s patented playing style used to great effect, whilst the mix of backing vocals soar with impeccable placing Bosch’s input which in itself almost takes on a characterizing narrator quality for the early minutes, shaping a forgivably morose opening into an uplifting climax.

If the rest of the record has anything left to show it’s that the track placement is nicely varied; few songs repeat themselves and even the weaker songs can still stand on their own in the grand scheme of the record. Maybe the slower tracks like My Last Breath, a plodded acoustic driven build-up, could have been held on for later on and even though the constant emotional downpour felt in later tracks such as ‘Jumpstart’ and ‘Tearing away’ will begin to grade in the latter half there is still evidence here of a release that is consistent, consecutively enjoyable and dissented from the previous album.

As someone who’s familiar with Bosch’s career as a voice actor, his loud sometimes harsh range bears itself as something almost unique within these tracks. There’s heavy emphasis on sustained notes and those that feel more gracefully shouted than sung, and whilst this does tend to make the individual words feel dragged out contentiously over the dissonant rhythms tracks such as Let’s Play Our Way break things up with faster strung lyricism and less emphasis on lung hinging.

Speaking of which the song writing from the former black Power Ranger (had to mention it somewhere Johnny…) bears the all too familiar Eyeshine flair for emotional and spiritual wrangling, though at times painfully simplistic there’s the odd nice piece of alliteration (such as in Our Whole Lives Tonight: ‘Vivid signs that often come and fall across my face. Visit me, in memories and dreams that I displace’) as well as anti-war based writing striving for peace; a bit of a tough nail to hammer all the way in sure but a concept not totally lost on the listener, with Hear the Sounds‘ chorus proclaiming: ‘…of a thousand voices, of a thousand nations rising all around. Can’t block us out, no soliders no fortress. Can you hear us now? Can you hear the sound?’ sticking out as un-condescending yet unaggressive.

It must be said though Bosch’s numbingly basic rhythm guitar gets a little too much focus when it really doesn’t help t define the songs it carries, yet its subdued strumming style is unusual if not a little repetitive.

Alongside the dependable drumming, piano work and intriguing techno influences of band co-progenitor Maruice Salmin the two newest members are in more ways than one an improvement to the overall dynamic of these recordings: Crystal Mesina sticks out from other bassists in Indie bands with highly diverse and focused basslines over simple rhythm hopping (a short but notable example being in the last 50 seconds of Jumpstart) whilst guitarist Eddie Colmenares’ numerous riffs are a nice blend of note picking and chord sequences, and whilst his solos aren’t as proclaimed in the tracks as they rightly should be the six string work in the album’s final track (and excellent cap off for the record to boot) ‘The Last Time’ feels very reminiscent of alternative/indie rock bands such as Jimmy Eat world or The Get up Kids in its inundating elegance.

As previously stated, the production on the album is rather impressive, the little moments in particular giving it staying power; from the numerous effects applied to Bosch’s vocals used to either  suppress it “20 leagues under the sea” style, or branch and weave it throughout the instrumental work, the atmospheric aura built up in the  aforementioned opening to ‘Hope is so far away’…even the echoes rippling from each chord change from the acoustic guitar in ‘My last breath’  go far to show how expert (not necessarily expensive) production can go in turning average into awesome.

Tone of Echoes, despite its many accolades in its finishing touches, unique blend of vocals and instrumental work and snippets of inspired song writing still needs a fair bit of commitment to really connect with what’s on offer, and in many ways doesn’t improve on the previous album My paper Kingdom. Yet it’s solid evidence for band’s sincerity of their appreciation for their ever extending fan base. The tentatively ascending anticipation for their upcoming all acoustic studio release Afterglow is on a comfortable rise indeed…

Words > Graham Ashton

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